This combination of photos shows California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaking in Sacramento, Calif., on June 24, 2022, left, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaking in Sioux Center, Iowa, May 13, 2023, right. (AP Photo)BY STEVE PEOPLES
NEW YORK (AP) — Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida escalated his feud with California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday, daring the West Coast Democrat to “stop pussyfooting around” and launch a primary challenge against President Joe Biden.
DeSantis, who announced his presidential campaign late last month, took on Newsom during a news conference in Florida in which he was asked about Newsom’s recent comments to Fox News agreeing to a hypothetical debate with DeSantis hosted by Sean Hannity.
“He’s got huge problems in his state –- I mean, like, huge problems in his state,” DeSantis said. “Yet with all those problems, he has a real serious fixation on the state of Florida. I think it’s just bizarre.”
DeSantis then turned to the Democrats’ 2024 primary election, in which Biden is facing only token opposition.
“You know what? Stop pussyfooting around,” DeSantis said. “Are you gonna throw your hat in the ring and challenge Joe? Are you going to get in and do it? Or are you just gonna sit on the sidelines and chirp?”
DeSantis’ jab comes as he shies away from confrontation with his chief rival in the GOP’s White House primary, former President Donald Trump. Newsom has previously said he would not challenge Biden in 2024 but has taken steps to boost his national profile in recent months.
While several of Trump’s Republican rivals have raised concerns about his federal indictment, DeSantis has largely avoided the subject. The governor made only a brief mention of the charges in a weekend speech to the North Carolina GOP during which he focused his censure on the Justice Department and the Biden administration.
DeSantis has been much more willing to lean into fights against Democrats and the media.
For example, a pro-DeSantis super political action committee released a video Thursday titled “Punching Back” that highlights DeSantis’ frequent confrontations with the media.
A Newsom spokesperson did not respond directly to DeSantis’ latest comments, but did note that Newsom attended Disneyland’s Pride night this week with company CEO Bob Iger. Disney has sued DeSantis, alleging the governor undertook a “targeted campaign of government retaliation” after the company opposed a Florida law that critics call “ Don’t Say Gay.”
Ace Smith, a senior Newsom adviser, responded to DeSantis’ new broadside on Twitter: “Your whining is very unpresidential!”